The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. If it doesn’t, it isn’t an effective resume. A resume is quintessentially an advertisement, designed to make you stand out against a sea of other job applicant hopefuls.
Of course, writing a resume can seem intimidating - What should you include and should you highlight ? Given that hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for any given position and spend on average 10 - 30 seconds to review each resume - How do you write yours to stand out?
Here are top 5 tips to consider when writing your resume:
1. Write with the End Goal / Job Opportunity In Mind
Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do. Resumes, like all good advertising, should be directed toward a very specific target audience. It is best to find a job you want to apply for (or at least figure out what type of job you want) before you write your resume. Why? Because your resume is a marketing piece for your job search. The more you know about the job you want, the better you can target your resume. Write from the intention to create interest, to persuade the employer to call you. If you write with that goal, your final product will be very different than if you write merely to inform or catalog your job history.
2. Focus On What The Employer Needs
Ask yourself: What would make someone the perfect candidate for this position? What does the employer really want? What would set a truly exceptional candidate apart from a merely good one?
Putting yourself in the shoes of the person doing the hiring is the foremost and most critical step in writing a resume that markets you rather than a laundry list of your past work history. Every step in producing a winning resume is tied to your intention to convey to the prospective employer that you are a truly exceptional candidate for the career opportunity at hand. Get clear what the employer is looking for and what you have to offer before you begin your resume. Prioritize the qualities or abilities you think would be most important to the person doing the hiring, and then brainstorm about why you are the person who best fulfils the employer’s needs. Write down actual work / personal examples that demonstrates that you fit perfectly with what is wanted and needed by the prospective employer.
Avoid writing from a self-centered point of view. People often make the mistake of listing their career objective from a self-beneficial perspective, e.g., “Aspiring to be in a position where I can hone my skill as a effective communicator.” or something similar. The employer is interested in hiring you for what you can do for them, not for fulfilling your private goals and agenda.
3. Get Keywords in Your Resume
In today's job market, your resume is apt to go through at least one keyword search before it lands on an employer's desk. In order to pass that search, you need to have the right list of keywords for your resume. List 20 or so terms that describe your qualifications for the job you want. These terms can be both technical and nontechnical. Job posts are great for sussing out the right keywords, and offer great insights on exactly what the employers are looking for. You can even print out a post, highlight keywords, and use it as a checklist of keywords for your resume.
4. Choose The Right Resume Format
Choose the right resume format that best showcase your past experience and capabilities.There are 3 main resume formats for you to consider:
The chronological resume is the more traditional structure for a resume. The Experience section is the focus of the resume; each job is described in some detail, and there is no major section of skills or accomplishments at the beginning of the resume. This structure is primarily used when you are staying in the same profession, in the same type of work. Include a Career Objective or Summary, to focus the reader.
Use this to your advantage if you have good employer brand names in your past work experience, but avoid this if you are making a career change!
The functional resume highlights your major skills and accomplishments from the very beginning. It helps the reader see clearly what you can do for them, rather than having to read through the job descriptions to find out. It helps target the resume into a new direction or field, by lifting up from all past jobs the key skills and qualifications to help prove you will be successful in this new direction or field. Actual company names and positions are in a subordinate position, with no description under each. There are many different types of formats for functional resumes. The functional resume is a must for career changers, but is very appropriate for generalists, for those with spotty or divergent careers, for those with a wide range of skills in their given profession.
It is a very effective type of resume to highlight your key skillsets, but the drawback is that it is hard for the employer to know exactly what you did in which job.
A combined resume includes elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It may be a shorter chronology of job descriptions preceded by a short “Skills and Accomplishments” section (or with a longer Summary including a skills list or a list of “qualifications”); or, it may be a standard functional resume with the accomplishments under headings of different jobs held.
There are obvious advantages to this combined approach: It maximizes the advantages of both kinds of resumes, avoiding potential negative effects of either type. One disadvantage is that it tends to be a longer resume and may seem repetitive as accomplishments and skills may have to be repeated in both the “functional” section and the “chronological” job descriptions.
5. Leverage on Existing Resume Builder / Scoring Tools
There are scores of free resume building tools out there that you could use to create your very own resume at a fraction of the efforts required as compared to creating it from scratch! Once you have your resume ready, you can even run your resume through a resume scoring tool on how well it corresponds to jobs that you are looking out for, and work to improve your resume before sending it out to prospective employers.